Common personality test for autism “lacks” reliability, say experts

A common diagnostic test for autism may not be as reliable as first thought, a major study has revealed.

The research, published by the University of Bath in collaboration with King’s College London, investigated the efficacy of autism personality tests.

According to the report, the test, commonly used by GPs and recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), “lacks” reliability and might not be capturing the right signs of autism.

Known as the 10-item Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ10) questionnaire, the personality test screens individuals for personality characteristics associated with autism. The results of the test are used as part of the diagnostic process, as well as in large-scale studies to measure autistic traits in the general population.

However, the researchers found that the measure had “poor reliability across several statistical techniques” and suggest that the reliance on AQ10 as a measure of autistic traits “needs to be questioned”.

“Our findings add further evidence to a growing body of literature indicating that the measures of autism and autistic traits currently used in research are inadequate”, said senior author Dr Punit Shah.

“A lot of what we know about autism – and how to help people with autism – has come from studies where these tools are used. However, if the measure of autism is unreliable, as we suggest, so too are the findings and conclusions. Without reliable measures, it is unclear if the findings from these studies are valid, and may be hampering the support we provide for people with autistic personalities or diagnosed autism in society.”

According to the latest statistics, autism affects around one in every 100 people, meaning there are around 700,000 individuals on the autism spectrum in the UK.

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